Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Toxic Trash: Nebraska Removes Potentially Dangerous Chemicals From School Science Labs




The whine of the hydraulic lift on the back of a cargo truck is sweet music to Dr. Joan Christen. That's because she won't have to worry any more about the chemicals inside the dozen or so boxes leaving the ground - boxes carrying 320 pounds of toxic and potentially hazardous chemicals that were in a science lab at Beatrice High School in Beatrice, Neb., where Christen teaches. Each container has one of those diamond-shaped caution signs - some say "corrosive," some say "flammable." One said "poison."
Christen is in her element in her science classroom at Beatrice High. Every square inch of the walls is covered by science posters, and the room contains collections of sea shells, shelves of microscopes, carts of textbooks and drawers full of corks, springs, and string. Before the chemicals were loaded on the truck, they sat on the same tables where students will be sitting when the school year begins.

Some of the bottles were brown with stained labels. Some of the jars were full of white powder.

Christen pointed to one table.

"Most of the things on this table are indicators dyes ... some of these bottles are really, really old - probably from the 1940s and '50's," she said. "We just have way too much of it to keep on hand. These chemicals are potentially hazardous, but mostly just take up room."

At the next table, she identified some bigger problems.

"We've got toxics, or poisons over here; we've got a stack of oxidizers over here," Christen said. "Some toxins can damage tissue through inhalation or contact. Oxidizers, under certain conditions, can cause explosions."

David Vernerd leaned over the tables, watching Christen's demonstration. A crew chief with Clean Harbors, Inc., the company hired to dispose of Beatrice High's unwanted chemicals, he categorizes and arranges the bottles so he can pack and label them according to U.S. Department of Transportation standards. 



Vernerd's chemistry degree qualifies him for the work, but there's an additional motivation.

"I think about the kids," he said. "I have a son myself, so I want the kids to be safe."

That's what Christen wants, too.

"That's why this bottle has to go" she said. "Potassium chlorate. There are some things you can do with that, but we just don't do them anymore, because it's just too dangerous."

She said safety standards in the science classroom have changed.

"When I was in high school, we played with mercury on the table with our hands," she recalled, "but we don't do that anymore. You get more knowledge about the toxic effects, so some of the things you used to do you just don't do anymore."

Christen said there's no trade-off between safety and science learning - there are still plenty of safe chemistry experiments for her students, and students can watch videos of riskier experiments done under more controlled conditions by experts.

Disposing unused, unwanted, and toxic chemicals from Beatrice High - and from every other High School in Nebraska - is the goal of the Nebraska School Chemical Cleanup Campaign. The campaign is part of Keep Nebraska Beautiful, and is publicly funded. Alan Grell, project director, said over the five years of the Nebraska School Chemical Cleanup Campaign, 292 schools have been cleared of potentially hazardous and toxic chemicals. He said not a single dime comes out of a school's budget for the cleanup.

"It's grant funds," he explained. "For three years, the Nebraska (Department of Environmental Quality) supported the program. This year, the Nebraska Environmental Trust is financing the operation, (which) will clean out 23 schools."

Grell is a retired colonel, Nebraska Army National Guard, and has served on a number of hazardous waste and emergency response organizations. He said removing 320 pounds of chemicals from Beatrice High will cost $2,700.

The price tag for all Nebraska's school chemical cleanups over the last five years comes to about a million dollars, Grell said. Some of the initial funds went into online training manuals for teachers. Now, the money is spent paying professionals to properly handle and dispose of the unwanted chemicals. After being labeled and loaded up, they will be trucked to an incinerator in Arkansas - much to the relief Nebraska teachers like Christen. 

6 comments:

  1. I just hope they got properly-equipped and trained storage and logistics people. Hazardous materials are not something to play around with.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hello sir, I got you by Google search.

    It is really helpful article about the topic of quest.netnebraska.org. It is very helpful in using social media sites.I so much interest about your article. I know it is not any simple information. This is very nice post! I will bookmark this blog as I have Some people have bad opinions about pickups provided on team advertising at Truck auction, considering that many of the styles on team community public auction are already poorly broken and with comprehensive problems. While this can be real, not all styles were poorly managed and irresponsibly used by their past entrepreneurs. Actually, there is some Auction for pickups that are a little bit used with low usage, and they look like product new; they are also in ideal handling situation, yet they are still well known at very low costs.

    Thanks For Only You Create That cute Article.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hello sir, Are you ok?

    Bottom line – just get blogging! It’s amazing how many lucrative jobs I’ve gotten via my blogs. Plus my blogs have been a great way to show cases my writing just as much as clips, samples, etc. Builds a thin film of micro-fine particles over the skin. This ensures a protective physical barrier over the skin ensuring the most complete protection for your Oxygen skin care all year round.

    A Billion Thanks Only For You.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hello sir, Are you ok? You have written a unique content.

    Very real, I only began finding this a few decades ago. It can display me a best way on this concept. This is very awesome able web page on quest.netnebraska.org.We are getting many types of service by this web page.I also like this web page. I will save this There are inexpensive Used ford trucks for sale these days if you know where to discover them. Discovering a used vehicle that meets your needs may be simpler these days than ever before.

    Thank you very much for your fantastic Article.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hello sir, How are you today?
    Thank you. I just found this blog and what a great resource! It is a good blog and their posts are effective. This is very nice post! I will bookmark this blog. This is excellent details for those who are looking for places for their BMW automobiles. Preserve BMW automobiles are usually one of the easy makes to find. This is because of their popularity and the ability to get top cash kind places and broken automobiles. BMW fans or those who are into fixing can find out many eco friendly places from a Salvage honda car.
    Thanks for the great post.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hello sir, How are you today?
    Great write-up, I am a big believer in commenting on blogs to inform the blog writers know that they’ve added something worthwhile to the world wide web!..moyar15

    ReplyDelete